I shouldn’t need to start this out by noting that I think Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame, since I’ve blathered on and on about that for quite a few years. But there it is anyway ... on the record, so to speak.
I mention this because there’s a new movie about Pete’s career exploits being premiered this week – “4192: The Crowning of the Hit King.”
(Pete Rose artwork by Arthur K. Miller, www.artofthegame.com)
Fair enough. It’s the brainchild of a Covington, Ky.-based production company called Barking Fish Entertainment, which reportedly wanted to accentuate the positive when it came to telling the unique story of the banished former ballplayer and manager. Again, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that as far as it goes.
But I am wondering just how far that might be. One of the news reports that I read stated unequivocally that there was not just a downplaying of the negative there was no negative to be found. If true, Ouch!
According to a website called www.OzarksFirst.com, the documentary “never mentions gambling, corked bats, his use of amphetamines or other controversies that surrounded Rose after his playing career ended.”
I like going out on a limb from time to time, so let me just say that I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that a purported documentary about a figure of national prominence could completely ignore such a vital element of the story. The parallels are obvious and plentiful.
President Nixon visits the Great Wall of China and opens relations between West and East and then fade to black, the curtain falls and roll credits? Or to make it more direct, Joe Jackson bats .375 in the 1919 World Series, plays one more season and then hangs up his spikes at age 31 after managing to bat .382 in his final campaign?
The more obvious example would be O.J. Simpson, but I wouldn’t want to equate Pete’s transgressions with what Simpson did. And that may be the biggest point in his favor.
Pete Rose didn’t murder anybody. I know there are good and honorable people who truly believe that his continued banishment from the game is appropriate and just, but I would simply take another tack.
He has been banished from the game he loved for more than two decades, denied the opportunity to make a living on the very ball fields where he performed with such unrelenting distinction for a quarter century. Can’t we make a case that the punishment has been more than adequate?
And for those purists who think it’s just fine the way it is – the permanent ineligibility now means only his Hall of Fame exclusion, since getting rehired in baseball is probably moot – I would ask one question.
How are we going to reconcile our continued thumping of Pete Rose with our eventual acceptance of the steroid crowd? To exclude nearly a whole generation of baseball’s greatest players from the Hall of Fame is simply something that’s not going to happen. We may spank them for a while, and maybe even a lot longer than I might suppose, but eventually they are going to end up in Cooperstown.
And if/when they do, their plaques will presumably mention steroids, just as a hypothetical Pete Rose plaque would have to mention gambling and “permanent ineligibility” in some fashion.
You can’t just close your eyes and pretend that it never happened. If you’re going to do that, you may just as well get your little cartons of chocolate milk and a box of cookies and wrap yourself in your blanket as you sit cross-legged on the floor.